Last Updated 15 October 2018

Nauru is an island republic with a unicameral parliament and no political parties, with politicians usually standing on independent platforms. With a population of around 10,000, the island is the smallest republic in the world.

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Constitution and government

The Constitution and other laws and policies protect freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as freedom of opinion and expression. These rights are generally respected in practice.

There is no state religion. The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom.

Education and children’s rights

Education is compulsory from six to sixteen years old, with two further years offered. There are only three primary schools, two secondary schools, the latter being Nauru College and Nauru Secondary School. There is a campus of the University of the South Pacific on Nauru.

After the previous community public library was destroyed in a fire, there was no major public library until the new Nauru Community Library open in May 2018, in the new University of the South Pacific Nauru Campus building.

There have been concerns about high rates of ill-health and resignation syndrome (suicidal tendencies) among children in Australian off-shore detention centers on Nauru and elsewhere.

Family, community and society

According to the 2011 census 95 percent of the population is Christian, while two percent report no religious affiliation. Major Christian denominations include the Nauru Congregational Church, Roman Catholicism, and Assemblies of God. Around 10% of the country is identified as Nauruan indigenous religion.

We have no reports of discrimination against the two percent non-religious population.

Under the law, religious groups must register with the government to operate in an official capacity, which includes proselytizing, building houses of worship, holding religious services, officiating marriages, and otherwise practicing their religion. The Catholic Church, the Nauru Congregational Church (which includes the Kiribati Protestant Church), the Assemblies of God, and the Nauru Independent Church are officially registered.

We have been able to determine whether the same registration criteria apply for non-religious groups or whether a non-religious group would be successful in applying.

There are no indications of widespread societal discrimination against particular religious denominations. Some religious groups, in particular The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) and the Jehovah’s Witnesses have been perceived as “foreign”. Some resistance by the Nauru Protestant Church to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Jehovah’s Witnesses has emerged as some Christians fear that proselytisation by these groups would create tensions. While previously their members were often denied entry visas, in recent years the government lifted all restrictions on the practice of missionary work. Also, members of these Churches are now allowed to hold religious services in their company-owned housing.

Societal pressures limit women’s ability to exercise their legal rights. In 2014, Jane Elizabeth Hamilton-White, a former barrister in Australia, became the first woman to sit on the Nauruan Supreme Court.

By mean Body Mass Index, Nauru has the most overweight population on earth, and suffers the highest rate of type-2 diabetes.

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

Freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are guaranteed by the constitution and generally respected in practice. The government does not restrict or censor the very limited homegrown news media (there is no national paper, but a fortnightly publication).

However, there are intermittent issues are political and press freedoms.

Though rated “Free” overall, Freedom House reports that “the government has taken steps to sideline its political opponents, and corruption is a serious problem”.

Civil liberties concerns were raised in 2015 around government attempts to limit freedom of expression among foreign journalists and opposition figures.

Australian offshore detention centres in Nauru have been internationally condemned over persistent reports of abuse and ill health among the asylum seekers housed there. The government reacted angrily to criticism of these centres on the island in October 2018 and ejected the Doctors Without Borders workers from the country.

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